Influence people

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chili Pepper Burns


Mary Boone co-authored today's post. She is considered a leading authority on the design of meetings to incorporate engagement.

Bob:

For as long as I've been involved in event promotion, I've been stymied by the ubiquitous chili pepper brochure.

From time immemorial, every event planner who's ever held an event of any size anywhere in the American Southwest, it seems, has illustrated the cover of her promotional brochure with a chili pepper.

I understand why a B2C event planner might use the tactic.

But why—when attendees are time-starved, budget-conscious and results-driven—do B2B event planners persist in the belief that destination matters? That destination influences prospective attendees' decision to attend a B2B event, or prefer one event over another?

The answer: DMOs.

Destination Marketing Organizations (in quainter times called "Convention and Visitors Bureaus") have brainwashed two generations of B2B event producers.

And not for the better.

In the drive to "put heads in beds," DMOs have propagated the myth that B2B events are just a form of tourism.


Their sway over B2B event planners has cost the planners dearly—in attendance, income and career.

That's why I insist chili pepper burns.

Mary:

I don’t think the answer to this situation is to dismantle DMOs. I think the answer is to raise awareness and educate.


Imagine this. An event planner is putting together an event. She is trying to figure out, among a million other details, where to hold it.


What if she knows the “Flo” (think Progressive insurance) of DMO professionals? She calls Flo. “Flo, I need to hold this event somewhere and I’m not sure where.”


Flo: “Tell me more about the objectives of the event. What’s your organization trying to achieve? What type of environment is going to support those objectives? Tell me more about the culture of your organization…”


Then, after a great conversation, Flo says, “You know, I’d love to be able to say that Chili Pepper, Texas, has the perfect venue for you, but this one time I have to admit that Vancouver, B.C., might be better.”


Shock and awe. So this time Flo doesn’t get the business, but guess who our planner is going to call every time she needs help?


If DMOs are educated to be consultative, client-centric, and business-focused in their interactions with planners, they can be deeply essential to the process of strategically selecting a location that matches the needs of both the event and the business.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

6 Simple Tips for Presenting Benefits that Convert


"Copywriting can be fatally disconnected from the real world of buying and selling," says Brad Shorr in Convince & Convert.

To bridge the gap, B2B marketers need to converse with salespeople, because "they are in the trenches, actually talking to customers and prospects and hearing firsthand what motivates them to buy and what keeps them from buying," Shorr says.


But how do you turn the conversations into copy that converts?
Shorr offers six tips:

Lead with "application" benefits.
First things, first. Nothing else matters if the product offered doesn't fill buyers' needs.


Hit buyers over the head. When you're reaching more than one audience, call out the high-value benefit applicable to each segment. Here, subheads and design can help.

Let customers do the talking. Testimonials, "if they are employed systematically and not arbitrarily," speak volumes. Using a benefit-bearing subhead to introduce a testimonial will clarify it.

Track. Track website form and phone leads back to their marketing sources, to learn which benefit statements convert the most buyers, and favor those statements in the future.

Get personal. "Don’t underestimate the power of personal benefits, even in B2B," Shorr says. Find out what they are by interviewing buyers. Prompt them to choose or rank personal benefits from a list.

Avoid temptations to pile on benefits. Avoid at all cost the "laundry list of benefits." Lists only convert buyers into skeptics.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Happy Accidents

Christopher Columbus discovered America while seeking a sea route to Asia.

Alexander Graham Bell was hoping to help teachers of the hearing impaired when he stumbled on the telephone.

Three PayPal employees built YouTube to compete with the dating site Hot or Not.

Objectives feel good, but accidents often outshine them, as researcher Andrew Smart says in
Harvard Business Review.

"Our objective obsession might be doing more harm than good, causing people, teams, and firms to stagnate," Smart says.

Statistics and stories about inventions prove that.

"Reports indicate that half are the result of not direct research but serendipity—that is, people being open to interesting and unexpected results."

Smart says we should ditch all the goals for "detours" that might lead to "something new and interesting."

"The more time we spend defining and pursing specific objectives, the less likely we are to achieve something great."

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Past isn't Dead. It isn't Even Past.

Urban Outfitters

Ideas that Germans call Schnapsideen are those so stupid, you must have been drunk when you conceived them.

What kind of schnapps-idea is this? a German might ask. 

Urban Outfitters' Vintage Kent State University Sweatshirt is an example.

Whether a real offering or a PR ploy, the product was a Schnapsidee.

In 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired on anti-war student protesters at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine.

When Urban Outfitters released its product, the members of the Twitterverse into Vergangenheitsbew√§ltigung—the struggle to overcome the past—went ballistic.

The company quickly fired off a retraction:

Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.

The lesson for marketers? 

Those who forget the past are condemned to recall.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

5 Ways to Combat Design Fixation

Marketers who default to an old fix for a new problem are guilty of "design fixation."

It's one reason so much marketing looks copy-cat.

Design fixation—also known as the Einstellung Effect—refers to our tendency to rely blindly on old solutions, and insist our first idea is always the best.

Fortunately, novices are more susceptible to design fixation than old hands, studies show.

How can you free yourself?

Jami Oetting, writing for Hubspot, suggests five antidotes:
  • Immerse yourself in new subjects. Escape your marketing bubble and reach for far-afield ideas. Learn a little about voles, snow-sports, fire protection, Washington Irving, and Czarist Russia.
  • Work with others. Diversity in experiences, expertise and cultural background and can stimulate fresh thinking.
  • Review previous solutions. Peer reviews will expose biases and flaws faster than anything. They force you to look at your ideas with iron-cold eyes.
  • Analyze and brainstorm. Generating more ideas helps assure an innovative one will emerge.
  • Test. Gather feedback from focus groups and A/B experiments.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Emissary of Humankind

Comparative Communist Political Systems was one of the more desultory courses I took in college.

The reading list was brutal, and I had to trudge many a dawn to the Library of Congress, because a lot of the stuff comprised unpublished papers by NATO diplomats.

But had I not elected the course, I might never have met the professor, Jan Karski.

Karski had been a young army lieutenant when the Soviets invaded his native Poland at the outbreak of World War II.

Captured near Ukraine, Karski managed to conceal his rank from his captors by swapping uniforms with a private. Uninterested in privates (they executed officers), the Soviets put Karski on a train bound west for Nazi territory; but he escaped, and made his way to Warsaw.

Before long, Karski joined Poland's Resistance, couriering dispatches to the country's government, exiled in Paris. On one trip, he was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured. Afraid he'd betray his fellows, Karski cut his own throat; but Nazi doctors stitched the wound before Karski bled to death. Members of the Resistance secreted him out of the hospital.

Karski immediately resumed his role as a courier. Ordered next to gather evidence of Nazi atrocities, he was twice smuggled by Jewish resistance fighters into the Warsaw Ghetto, to see first hand what was happening to its citizens. Karski witnessed Nazi soldiers hunt down and kill Jewish children for sport, and saw Jews herded into boxcars heading for the death camps. So sickened was he by the sights in the railroad yard, Karski vomited.

After his final mission in Poland, Karski was ordered to England and the US, to spread word of the Nazis' atrocities among the Allies. He met in 1943 with the British Foreign Secretary in London, and with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House. Karski pleaded with both men to intervene. His stories were met with disbelief.

Undaunted, Karski wrote Story of a Secret State, published in 1944 as a Book of the Month Club selection. Over 400,000 copies were sold. Unable to sway their leaders, Karski helped open the eyes of Brits and Americans to the Holocaust.

After the war, Karski remained in the US, earned a doctorate, and joined the faculty of Georgetown University, where he taught for 40 years.

In 1994, Karski was made an honorary citizen of Israel, in recognition of his efforts on behalf Holocaust victims. He was also nominated for a Nobel Prize shortly before his death in 2000.

There are public memorials to him today in Washington, New York City, Warsaw, Lodz, Tel Aviv and elsewhere.

Hero by Mistake



"The real hero is always a hero by mistake," Umberto Eco said. "He dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else."

Medievalist Raymond Klibansky was one of those heroes.

A German Jew, Klibansky worked as a philosophy professor at the University of Heidelberg in the early 1930s.

He was an expert in Nicholas of Cusa, another German philosopher who, 500 years before, had fathered "modernism" by arguing that science is superior to superstition.

Nazi ideologues drove Klibansky to England, where he found other teaching jobs. When England declared war on Germany in 1939, Klibansky took a government job in intelligence.

He used his intelligence job to warn every British and American air force officer he could reach that there was a target inside Germany they must not bomb: St. Nicholas Hospital, in the town of Bernkastel-Kues.

The hospital had been founded by Nicholas of Cusa, and housed his 500-year-old manuscripts—irreplaceable codebooks to the medieval mind.

Thanks to Klibansky's pleas, the Allies spared the building.

When the philosopher visited the town after the armistice in 1945, Bernkastel-Kues' citizens threw a party and gave Klibansky a hero's welcome.

The philosopher moved to Canada the following year, where he taught at McGill for the next 30 years, and lived and wrote to the venerable age of 100.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Eschew Inkhorn Terms

Queen Elizabeth's confidant Thomas Wilson warned writers away from fancy words 450 years ago in his Art of Rhetoric.

Wilson paid no court to "clerks" who used "outlandish English."

He called their fandangles "inkhorn terms"—words only pedants prefer.

Wilson warned:

Among all other lessons this should first be learned, that we never affect any strange inkhorn terms, but to speak as is commonly received: neither seeking to be over-fine or yet living over-careless, using our speech as most men do.

Think you're immune from Wilson's law, because yours is a C-level audience?

Think again.

Inkhorn terms could cost you credibility, no matter how well-paid your audience, says copywriter Keith Lewis.

Convoluted copy backfires, Lewis says. 

"Far from making you or your company sound intelligent, it alienates audiences. It turns them off, no matter how high up the income chain a potential reader might be."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Want to be a Writer? There's a Catch.

In 1953, Joseph Heller was employed as a copywriter at Merrill Anderson when he imagined a novel that, eight years later, would appear as Catch 22.

"Working on Catch, I’d become furious and despondent that I could only write a page a night," Heller once told an interviewer. "I’d say to myself, ‘Christ, I’m a mature adult with a master’s degree in English, why can’t I work faster?'”


Moxie isn't always included among the copywriter's traits, though it should be. One page a night for eight years takes a lot of moxie.

Hubspot contributor Matthew Kane says copywriters must have nine other traits to be any good. They must be:

Top-notch researchers and interviewers. "Copywriters will need to pivot from client to client and sometimes industry to industry," Kane says. "As such, they’ll need to get up to speed—quickly." Interviews with experts add context to samples and reading materials.

Knowledgeable about audiences. "We try to write in the vernacular," David Ogilvy once said. Ads, ebooks, case studies and blog posts only work when the writer knows "what the intended audience thinks, speaks, and searches for," Kane says.

Thirsty to learn. A copywriter should thirst for knowledgebut not turn insatiable. "Copywriters know their goal should be to learn as much information about the product and the audience as possible to write effective copyand nothing more."

Informed. "Bad copywriters often stuff their work with purple prose or other literary devices in an attempt to make some sort of high-minded art out of an innocuous project," Kane says. "Good copywriters, on the other hand, understand the modern world. They’re knowledgeable about how consumers skim and read, understand the importance of an attention-grabbing headline, can articulate the sales and marketing objectives, and know a thing or two about SEO and keyword optimization."

Thick-skinned. Rejecting feedback from others never works. "Good copywriters believe in their convictions but understand that they may not always be right."

Self-assured. Good copywriters can explain to critics why they took a particular approach and chose particular words.


Anti-perfectionist. “Art is never finished, only abandoned," da Vinci once said. "Good copywriters realize that the pursuit of perfectionwhile nobleis futile," Kanes says. "They know that they can go on tweaking forever, but understand that 'good enough' is exactly that."

Willing to seek help. Writing is a solitary pursuit. "As a result, many copywriters have the tendency to view themselves as a 'lone wolf,'” Kane says. But good copywriters seek out mentors, editors, teachers and advisors who will push them to do better work.

Always reading. "An exceptional copywriter is always aware of the latest industry trends," Kane says. "They cringe at coming across as out of touch."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

2,200 Steps to Killer Content

Do the content marketers in your organization sit in cubicles all day?

They should know better.


Big ideas don't come from sitting.

As Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”


Writers have always understood walks are not trips around the block, but treks through idea-land.


Aristotle, Kant, Rousseau, Blake, Dickens, Woolf, Hemingway—all were avid walkers.


"The moment my legs begin to move,” Thoreau said, “my thoughts begin to flow.”

Why does walking work?

Because we don’t have to think hard when we do it.

Our minds are free to wander—and unleash a parade of images.

"Writing and walking are extremely similar feats," Ferris Jabr says in The New Yorker.

"When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps.

"Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands.

"Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts."

Two Stanford researchers have, in fact, shown that walking boosts creativity by 60%.

So, here are the steps to killer content.

Go outdoors.

Walk a mile.

Come back.

Kill it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Clarity Commandment

The B2B marketing-scape is littered with statements like this one:

SpineMap 3.0 Navigation Software is designed to optimize the surgical experience through an intuitive solution which includes a personalized surgical workflow to help support OR efficiency.

Much of B2B copy not only bores, but breaks a rule Herschell Gordon Lewis calls "The Clarity Commandment:"

When you choose words and phrases, clarity is paramount. Don’t let any other component of your communication interfere with it. 

Like other commandants handed down, easier said than done.

Clarity comes from more than short words and phrases.

It comes from avoiding jargon and any terms with less than laser-precision.

"In our enthusiasm for creating uniqueness, sometimes we lapse into poetry or in-talk, or we pick up phraseology that may make sense within the office but is gobbledygook to outsiders," Lewis says. 

"Or we go just one step beyond clarity—not a cardinal sin, but not a message that’s quickly and clearly understood."

Clarity's at risk whenever ambiguity rears its head.

Think about the example above:

Really, what's an optimized surgical experience?

A personalized surgical workflow?

What is OR efficiency?

And clarity's at risk whenever we add the unnecessary.

Why an intuitive solution? 

Why to help support?

"Clarity is hog-tied to simplicity," Lewis says.

And simplicity's, well, simple.

Copy that doesn’t demand analysis is more likely to hit its goal—command of the reader’s attention—than complex copy.

PS. An inquiring reader asks, How would you handle the statement above? Here goes:

SpineMap 3.0 Navigation Software gives you a second pair of eyes and hands during back surgery. Less time in the OR means more time on the green.

Now, I think I'll go watch This is Spinal Tap.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Future of B2B Content Marketing


Videos are the future of B2B content marketing.

Seven in 10 B2B marketers already use them, according to Demand Metric.

That's little wonder, when one in two people watch marketing videos on line every day, as Liz Alton reports in Sales and Marketing Daily Advisor.

Videos' matchless power comes from their "immediacy and intimacy," Alton says.

She describes five kinds of videos B2B marketers use:

Explainer. Explainer videos are "short, focused videos that give an elevator pitch of what products and services you offer." They're often produced in whiteboard style.

Case studies. Case studies give customers "an inside look at your work," Alton says. They can be testimonials or project reviews that prove you deliver results.

How-to. How-to videos address FAQs you receive. Depending on the complexity of the topic, they can provide quick tips or in-depth guidance.

Real-time. Meerkat and Periscope let you connect with customers in the moment. "Companies are using the tools for live Q&As, to report in from events and trade shows, and to respond to industry news," Alton says.

Culture. Culture videos let you showcase staff, illustrate workflows, or give a glimpse of your systems in action. Many customers crave this “behind the scenes” look, Alton says.

But wait, there's more...

Besides boosting your brand, marketing videos attract more customers to your website, thanks to Google, says Swati Joshi in The Huffington Post.

"The fact that Google owns YouTube plays a role in video’s increased popularity," she says.

"Google has been constantly adjusting its algorithm to give its users a meaningful experience while searching. To satisfy user intent, they show a variety of results, and not just exact keyword matches. As a result, search results now prominently feature videos among top results."

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Delicate Delinquent

I grew up a mile outside Newark, New Jersey, home town of Jerry Lewis.

My mom, a school teacher, worked with an older colleague who'd had Lewis in her fifth grade classroom 25 years before.

Despite his fame as a nightclub, radio, TV and film star, my mom's coworker hated Lewis.

He'd been a 10-year-old thorn in her side that whole school year. 

A jerk. Smart ass. Wise guy. Class clown. 

She hated him.

In Originals, Adam Grant says the difference between an original and the rest of us boils down to whether or not that person "rejects defaults." 

Default behaviors. Default beliefs. Default systems. Default "worlds."

"The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists," Grant says.

We tend to think originals are appreciated early, as were Mozart, Rimbaud and Picasso.

But that's not the norm, Grant says.

Social science shows school kids who are originals are the least likely to be appreciated.

In one study, teachers listed their favorite and least favorite students, and rated each group.

The least favorites were the non-conformists.

"Teachers tend to discriminate against highly creative students, labeling them as trouble-makers," Grant says. 

"In response, many children quickly learn to get with the program, keeping their original ideas to themselves."

But some people, for their own crazy reasons, can't sit still long enough to "accept defaults."

Happy 90th Birthday, Mr. Lewis.

Still rejecting defaults after all these years.

UPDATE: Jerry Lewis passed away August 20, 2017, in his home in Las Vegas.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Stifle Yourself

Impatient with blabbermouths, Archie Bunker was prompt to say,"Stifle yourself."

Of the two greatest sins B2B marketers cannot resist—jargon and pomposity—the more deadly is pomposity.

Jargon merely baffles brains.

But pomposity kills affinity—and engagement.

Though it's tempting to reach for flowers like endwisediscoverableholistic, generative and ninja-like, it's self-defeating.

"Godfather of direct marketing," Herschell Gordon Lewis, puts it plainly in Copywriting Secrets and Tactics:

“Overstretching for colorful words can damage reader empathy. Stay within acceptable bounds. Once again we see hard evidence that strong direct response writing can require the discipline of vocabulary suppression.”

Tempted by showy vocabulary?

Stifle yourself.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Micro Ads: Small is the New Big


Micro ads deliver macro results, according to a new study by IPG Media Lab.

When viewed on smartphones, micro ads—videos 5 to 15 seconds in length—yield better brand recall, preference and purchase intent than longer ads, the study found.

Micro ads also yield better results among Millennials than viewers of other ages.

Micro ads enjoy an advantage because they're bite-sized, the researchers say.

The ads enjoy an advantage when viewed on smartphones because they seem to dominate the tiny screens.

Millennials dig micro ads because they grew up with smartphones. They find micro ads more enjoyable and of higher quality than viewers of other ages.

The study also found micro ads work better when viewers are out and about, rather than home; and when the ads have voiceovers.

For a micro ad to drive more than just brand awareness, its minimum length should be 15 seconds, according to the study. 

A micro ad shorter than that is simply too micro.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Thinkers Thrive

Sales gurus call the ultimate customer relationship that of "trusted advisor."

But what is a trusted advisor?


"A trusted advisor is an expert, someone who brings you a new idea or teaches you something she has learned about your industry," Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, told members of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington at last night's annual meeting.

If you're not your customers' trusted advisor, you'll inevitably have to compete on price alone, Clifton said. 

And inevitably go broke in the process.

Of course, you can stay off the radar and earn the trusted advisor label by dint of hard work.

Or you can use a little marketing to help you by cementing your stance as a "thought leader."

Becoming a thought leader is a six-step process, says blogger Maddy Osman.

1. Follow and comment on news in your niche

Make connections that will alert you to breaking news, then toss in your two cents. "Finding ways to make industry connections will help your company move from news consumer to news creator," Osman says.

2. Be disagreeable


Thought leaders find ""the sweet spot between saying something that not everyone will agree with, and completely stirring the pot with a controversial opinion."

3. Be nice

Be generous with praise and thanks for those who engage with and support you.


4. Hunt for exposure

Seek and jump on every opportunity to collaborate on a content marketing project.


5. Be charitable

Except for perhaps an email address, don't ask people for anything in return for your thoughts.


6. Get out and speak

Speak at and sponsor key industry conferences, and never refuse speaking opportunities at smaller events.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Virtual Fishwrap

Fishwrap, according to Urban Dictionary, refers to "any printed journalistic medium with such low credibility and standards in acceptable journalism that its only useful function is to wrap fresh fish in."

I earned my marketer's chops publishing a corporate magazine when those were all the rage. I won't claim it had high standards. But it wasn't fishwrap, either.

Corporate magazines can be powerful content marketing vehicles, particularly for B2B companies.

Speaking of vehicles, Content Marketing Institute credits John Deere with the invention of content marketing with its magazine The Furrow (CMI overlooks Poor Richard's Alamanack.)

A handful of corporate magazines still circulate today in print (CMI's Chief Content Officer is a laudable example); but most, if not folded, have gone digital (McKinsey Quarterly, for example).

Flip-book software may spawn a renaissance of the corporate magazine, but I have doubts.

Like sustained blogging, publishing a corporate magazine is a tough row to hoe (just ask John Deere). 

A luxury-grade magazine gobbles thousands of dollars in fees for freelance journalists, editors, photographers and graphic designers. But that's what you need to spend to hook readers. 

A flip-book, cobbled together on the cheap, won't make the grade.

At best, it's no more than virtual fishwrap.

Monday, March 14, 2016

2 Huge Mistakes that Will Sink Even Your Strongest Event

Warwick Davies contributed today's post. With 25 year's experience running conferences and trade shows, he owns and operates The Event Mechanic!

Having been around in the business a while, I have had the luxury of watching great shows come and go, like watching cruise ships in the harbor. 

What are the critical factors that will hasten the decline of an event? I’d boil them down to two:

1. Losing positive engagement with your key stakeholders, who are: 
  • Top 10 sponsors
  • Top 10 content drivers or thought leaders
  • Top 10 attendee groups
  • Top 10 suppliers (hotels and general service contractors)
Someone has spent years building the relationships that grew the event to be a market leader. As the event grew, you may have started to take things for granted or gotten greedy, with large profits rolling in, and forgot the nuts and bolts of keeping relationships healthy and mutually profitable. As the market grew, your competitors became hungrier than you, and started treating your stakeholders better than you, and they started to drift.

2. Not knowing what’s going on in your market from a DNA level 

Is your knowledge of your marketplace ‘imported?” Are you part of the market or just serving it?  If the latter, how do you know which innovations to feature without being too forward or not forward enough? 

That’s the bad news. How do you reverse the trends? Just do the opposite of the above: make a commitment to keep all your relationships healthy and your knowledge current and relevant. Resting on your laurels in this business is going to eventually end in disaster…

Sunday, March 13, 2016

There's Something Happening Here

I'm an optimist.

But I can't resist thinking about Sinclair Lewis once in a while.

His 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here, portrayed the election to the presidency of a populist, on his promise to make America great again.

Once in office, the new president outlaws dissent, tossing opponents into concentration camps and arming his stooges to keep the citizenry in check.

Dissidents who aren't imprisoned turn for help to a secret organization, the "New Underground," which smuggles them into Canada.

But as befits all tyrants, the president is eventually ousted in a White House coup. 


His successor, to create employment for the millions of jobless, declares war on Mexico.

But the war is unpopular and sparks nationwide unrest. The unrest provides an opportunity for the dissidents to return from Canada. They quickly form a resistance movement.

Civil war erupts in the final chapters.


NOTE: Opinions are my own.

Short and Easy



"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’"                               
― A.A. Milne


Most often, your purpose in publishing is to inform and persuade. Why mask your meaning with long, difficult words?

Why say your product "will provide seamless multi-user functionality," when you mean it "supports up to 15 users?"

Why sound like some abstruse academic or dodgy bureaucrat?

"Bad writers, and especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, " George Orwell says in "Politics and the English Language."

Latin and Greek words are grand, but their use in business is dreadful.

Just look at this balderdash from Accenture:

Insurers will need to open up to their ecosystem partners, sharing not only customer data, but customers themselves. To encourage and support such ecosystems, IT architectures will need to evolve, ensuring flexibility and interoperability with external partners and providers. A key challenge will be to orchestrate innovation and legacy evolutions while simultaneously managing security threats and changing IT processes to roll out and manage new products and services faster and cheaper.

Acccenture means:

Insurance companies need to upgrade their IT systems so suppliers can use their customer data. But they can't let the changes interrupt routine business.

This morning's lesson: short and easy.

Now, what about lunch?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

No Agony, No Ecstasy



Like popes of old, today's venture capitalists have no patience with the tortured perfectionist.

"Perfection has no business in the world of entrepreneurship," Charlie Harary says in Entrepreneur.

Today's marketplace is "supersonic," so entrepreneurs must tightly cap opportunity costs—and quality.

He quotes LinkedIn founder Reed Hoffman: "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late."

Products need only be "minimally viable," Harary says, and businesses thick-skinned.

"A little criticism or failure never killed anyone. Learn to embrace it and use it to make you great."

In other words, scrap excellence for the quick buck and one day you, too, will run a respected company.

This wolfish mindset explains why so many of the apps we buy are broken; the books, riddled with typos; the drugs, full of dangerous side effects.

It's not because we lack talent.

It's because we're in such a goddamned hurry.

As novelist Irving Stone said in The Agony and the Ecstasy, “Talent is cheap; dedication is expensive."
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